Original article written by Laura Gaskill on Houzz

With art projects, fort building, tea parties and bedtime stories, kids are busy all day, every day — and their rooms usually have the clutter to prove it! In this series, we’re approaching each room in the house from the perspective of identifying what sparks joy. So far we’ve tackled the bedroom, bath, kitchen, entry, living room, home office and dining room. Here we look at ways to clear the clutter and create a calm, centered and creative space where kids can be kids.

Imagine what a clutter-free kid space would look and feel like. If you held in your hand a magic wand with the power to remove anything and everything standing in the way of a clutter-free children’s room, what would you get rid of? What would stay? Of course we all know that kids’ rooms can’t stay neat all the time — but when the excess stuff is gone, quickly straightening up becomes much easier.  Take a moment to imagine how it would feel to walk into your child’s room and see a calm, clean and clutter-free space. Wonderful, right? As you clear clutter, hold this vision clearly in your mind. Older kids who will be involved in the clutter-clearing process can do this too!

Create a restful space for sleep. Imagine leading your child into his or her room at bedtime, and being greeted with a tidy space, soft lighting and a welcoming, freshly made bed. In an ideal world, children’s bedrooms would be just for sleeping, but more often than not, they’re the place where kids do everything. But no matter whether the little ones are hosting tea parties or making macaroni collages during the day, the room needs to be able to transform into a peaceful refuge for slumber at night.

Take action: 

– Be sure enough of your child’s toys are hidden behind closed doors to create a restful atmosphere. Too much visual “noise” at bedtime can be distracting. – Clear the immediate area around the bed. All that’s needed here is a good lamp and room for a glass of water and a storybook. – Keep the bedding itself simple. This isn’t the place for tons of throw pillows!

Simplify. If your child’s room is feeling chaotic, chances are there’s simply more stuff than the space (and your child) can handle. Simplifying a child’s room makes it easier to do everything, from getting dressed in the morning to finding that favorite toy before bed. How much to remove? Probably more than you think! Aim to have ample open space on the floor and other surfaces.  Some items can be saved and stored to play with later (more on that in a moment), but first aim to get the sum of toys and clothes down to a more manageable amount.

Try this Jedi mind trick. I find that the process stays a whole lot more positive if you choose to focus on what your child loves instead of what you’re getting rid of. This is particularly important if your child is involved in the process. It’s much easier for a child to say, “This is something I’m not playing with as much right now” than “I’m ready to give this away.” This can help children begin to detach from their not-so-loved toys. The “good” things can go into bins to rotate into play in the future, and the not-so-great ones can quietly disappear.

Spotlight, rotate, repeat. What to do with the good toys that are not currently being used? Pack them neatly into containers and stash them out of sight wherever you have the space — under a bed, in a guest room closet, or in the garage or other storage area. With fewer toys left in your child’s room, you can really spotlight the favorites. When kids start showing less interest (or if they ask for a change), you can swap in some fresh toys from storage.

Take action: Being able to easily and quickly change up the toy selection takes preparation, but it will make life easier, so it’s worth the effort!

– Remove all broken and unloved toys if you haven’t already done so. – Sort remaining toys into groups (plastic animals, trucks, games). – Create labels for each toy bin (a picture and a word is best for young children). – Keep only as much out at one time as will comfortably fit in the space.

Create zones for play. In the same way it helps to have your wooden spoons near the stovetop and your knives near the cutting board, it helps to have toys and materials in the right place in your child’s room or play area. Think about putting blocks near a clear floor space for building, art materials and puzzles near a child-height table, and books in a comfy reading nook.

Take action: Keeping toys in portable containers as near as possible to where they are typically used will make cleanup time easier.

– Choose portable bins and baskets so that toys and materials can be moved to play and be easily cleaned up. – Store blocks and building materials near a rug or a table. – Keep a caddy of frequently used art supplies on a kid-height table. – Hang dress-up clothes on hooks beside a full-length mirror.

Set up simple systems. As kids enter school age, they will need to begin taking on more responsibilities — and staying organized can be a big help when it comes to keeping track of schoolwork. Whether your children use a desk or work at the kitchen counter, be sure they know exactly where their school supplies are stored. If your child can’t reach the colored pencils and glue, you will inevitably be the one tracking them down, so keep frequently used supplies in open bins at child level.

Take action: With your child, think through a typical day and make sure there is a convenient place at home to store all the little things your child needs to access on the way to and from school or other activities.

– Use hooks to hold the school bag and jacket. – Dedicate a shelf or basket to store library books. – Decide on one spot to keep the homework folder, and store supplies nearby. – Use a rolling cart to bring art and school supplies right where they need to be, and wheel them away when the kids are done.